By Vijay Darda | 18-02-2023
Keep going, keep going! With faith, confidence, and mutual trust!
The first issue of the Nagpur edition of Lokmat was published on December 15, 1971. Explaining the stand in a special article in this first issue, my father and guide Jawaharlalji Darda alias Babuji, quoted a line from an eminent Marathi poet Vinayak:
‘Purva Divya Jyanche
Tyanna Ramya Bhavi Kaal
Bodh Hach Itihasacha Sada
(Those, whose past deeds are good, have a great future. This has always been the lesson of history).
Lokmat is celebrating its golden jubilee after completing 50 years of a successful and glorious journey. In this long journey, Lokmat struggled hard to stand firmly on the side of the underprivileged, oppressed, and down-trodden people. Breaking the established circle, this newspaper became society-oriented. Battling many adversities and braving ups and downs, Lokmat spread in Maharashtra.
Loknayak Bapuji Aney started weekly Lokmat in Yavatmal in 1918. The name Lokmat was given by Lokmanya Tilak himself. Later, due to the suppression by the British during the Jungle Satyagraha, the weekly was closed. After independence, Babuji, whose personality was moulded by the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi and influence by his concept of ‘Surajya’, went to Bapuji to seek his permission to revive the closed weekly. Bapuji said, “The chapter of that weekly has ended since long. Why ask for permission? It is not necessary. Let me give you the best wishes, not permission.” On May 1, 1953, the publication of the weekly Lokmat was resumed from Yavatmal under the leadership of the Chief Minister of the then Central Province and Berar, Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla. In 1960, it was converted into a bi-weekly
However, Babuji regretted that there was no newspaper espousing national thought in Nagpur. That is why, he decided to publish Lokmat as a daily from Nagpur. The publication of Lokmat started on December 15, 1971, in Nagpur. It was the beginning of a new era. That was the sowing of the seed of public awakening, maybe nobody knew how courageous that step was, but Babuji was well aware of it. The slogans hailing win in the freedom struggle had stopped. Challenges before the independent nation were becoming pronounced. At that time, Babuji conceived the idea of starting a daily spreading nationalistic thoughts from the heart of the country i.e. Nagpur.
Marathi media houses of that time were established in big cities like Mumbai and Pune from where the newspapers used to be transported elsewhere. However, when Lokmat came out, this movement started in the opposite direction. This was the beginning of swimming against the tide. Lokmat refrained from treading the trodden path. Against adverse conditions, it fought on many fronts and found its own way, expanding itself diligently.
Correspondents and distributors were appointed. The correspondents were selected from among the newly-educated ‘Bahujans’ without considering the class which considered knowledge as a monopoly. Lokmat moulded a new generation of rural journalists. It discovered new talented authors. The focus of its writing was deliberately rural. It used the colloquial language that was understood by the common man. A new system of distribution was established.
Lokmat has been at the forefront of adopting new technology. The newspaper, which had become a symbol of the prestige of a handful of elite in the cities, reached the villages. The Ganges of information flowed along with the aroma of the farmland. Lokmat represented the class of ‘have-nots’. It was unthinkable at that time that a photograph of a lacerated back of a labourer, who was brutally beaten up by his employer, could be published in a newspaper. It was done by a bold Lokmat. Later, most of the social movements that changed the social history of Maharashtra were born in Lokmat Chowk. After Nagpur, the golden imprints of expansion of Lokmat were engraved not only on the map of Maharashtra but also on that of Goa and later on Delhi.
Lokmat continued to tread the path of constructive action. It provided a solid platform for the working and exploited classes like workers, farmers, women, youth, and students to express themselves. Various activities like Lokmat Sakhi Manch, Campus Club, Bal Vikas Manch, Lokmat Yuva Manch, and Sanskarache Moti, among others, were launched. During national calamities like Kargil War, Earthquake, and Floods, it took initiatives to build hostels, and schools for children of soldiers from funds collected and also raised a relief fund for malnourished people in Melghat.
Agricultural fairs for farmers, conferences for paddy growers, and orange festivals for orange growers were also organised from time to time! Editors were given complete freedom by the management of Lokmat. The organisation always stood by editors and reporters. The Statue of Freedom of Press in Nagpur is a visual representation of that editorial freedom. The real credit for making Lokmat a number-one Marathi daily goes to the newspaper vendors. Lokmat immortalised their contribution and expressed gratitude towards them by erecting the statue of a newspaper vendor and getting it unveiled by the vendors themselves in the presence of the Chief Minister.
Lokmat was constantly accused of being a Congress mouthpiece, but these allegations were never true. As a loyal worker of Congress, Babuji kept saying that he would take an appropriate stand during the election, but Lokmat as a newspaper would remain independent. The same principle is followed even today. Lokmat received many blows from many sides, but these accusations were automatically blunted by Lokmat’s all-inclusive approach. The path ahead was paved with thorns, yet Lokmat moved forward with courage, faced every hurdle along the way, and in the process, strengthened itself to take on newer challenges. The maturity it has gained by overcoming all the blows while moving in step with time has given it strength for the next journey today.
So far, Lokmat has been the need of society in many ways and society has been the need of Lokmat. Recognising it, hand in hand with people, we have been taking steps with determination. It is because of this determination that the next fifty-hundred years will be of Lokmat. In future, the complexity of questions, problems and pains of people will be different and the younger generation will have to take care of solving them. For that, members of younger generation of Lokmat family like Devendra, Rishi and Karan and their teams are equipped with tools like artificial intelligence and machine algorithms. Providing uninterrupted service in the online era, Lokmat has leapt across seven seas through digital media including e-paper.
The 24-hour news channel ‘News18 Lokmat’ has also been added. In globalisation, just as the genesis of suffering around the world is the same, so are the contexts of hopes, aspirations, dreams and pleasures. No matter which corner of the world they reach, this generation wants the aroma of our soil during boardroom discussions. Keeping this global perspective in mind, Lokmat has to move forward.
This is the age of multimedia. We are experiencing the invention of new media, the importance of social media, and the revolution in media. Although this path is challenging for newspapers, it is also opening the doors of new global opportunities. Now is the time to ride those opportunities. Although the context of the surrounding situation changes, the values of journalism, society as the pulse, reader as the focus will remain the foundation. On this occasion, we assure that the tradition of preserving values while working will remain unaltered. Indeed, words are not enough to express our gratitude to all the agents, vendors, correspondents, former employees, advertisers, readers, and well-wishers from every village and town. I am humbled to know that Lokmat was able to emerge as the numero uno daily of Maharashtra, Goa, and Delhi on the strength of all of them, after performing many miracles and tackling various difficulties.
This chariot has started running on the strength of people’s power. There is still a lot to go. Charaiveti, Charaiveti!! That is keep going, keep going! With faith, confidence, and mutual trust!
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